Matthew 5:15–16

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Matthew 5:15–16
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5:17 →
Teachings of Jesus 7 of 40. the candle. Jan Luyken etching. Bowyer Bible.gif
An etching by Jan Luyken illustrating Matthew 5:15 in the Bowyer Bible (1795), Bolton, England.
BookGospel of Matthew
Christian Bible partNew Testament

Matthew 5:15 and Matthew 5:16 are the fifteenth and sixteenth verses of the fifth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament. They are part of the Sermon on the Mount, and is one of a series of metaphors often seen as adding to the Beatitudes. The previous verse compared the disciples to a City upon a Hill that can't be hidden. These verses present a similar analogy.


In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads:

15: Neither do men light a candle, and put it
under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it
giveth light unto all that are in the house.
16: Let your light shine before men, that
they may see your good works, and
glorify your Father which is in heaven.

The World English Bible translates the passage as:

15: Neither do you light a lamp, and put it
under a measuring basket, but on a stand;
and it shines to all who are in the house.
16: Even so, let your light shine before men;
that they may see your good works, and
glorify your Father who is in heaven.

For a collection of other versions see BibleGateway Matthew 5:15-16


The KJV translation of bushel is more literal. R. T. France reports that a bushel was a measure of grain equivalent to about nine litres.[1] One cannot put a unit of measure on top of something, so the word is generally seen as an expression for a bowl or container holding this amount. The WEB uses this more figurative translation. David Hill in the New Century Bible Commentary notes that this might be a reference to the hiding of the Hanukkah lamp to protect it from desecration.[2] Eduard Schweizer notes that at this time almost all houses would have only had one room, so a single lamp is all that would have been needed to shine on all inhabitants.[3]

France notes that as with Matthew 5:13, the science in this verse is somewhat shaky. He notes that a lamp could not be hidden under a bowl as it would be rapidly extinguished by the lack of oxygen.[1] Schweizer disagrees with this view. He feels that the metaphor is on how one would not light a lamp simply to put it out. He feels that a bowl would be a standard device to extinguish a lamp without generating smoke.[3]

This verse is paralleled in Mark 4:21 and Luke 8:16. Hill notes that there is an important difference between Luke and Matthew's versions. In Matthew the lamp shines on all who are in the house, implying conversion from within the community, Luke has the lamp shining for those who come into the house, implying new people joining the community.[2]

St. Augustine linked this verse to John 5:35, and the two have been closely associated ever since, despite the somewhat different meanings of the two verses.

Like the previous two verses, Clarke notes that this one has appeared prominently in history and culture. Charlemagne cited it as the reason for building a series of schools and universities across his empire.[4] It inspired the popular Victorian era hymn "Jesus Bids us Shine" and the still popular song "This Little Light of Mine". The verse also appears in several major works of literature including James Fenimore Cooper's The Pioneers and Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. In James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, a character is described as "shining quietly under a bushel of Wicklow bran".[5]

Hill notes that Father in heaven is a favourite expression of the author of Matthew's, occurring twenty times in his gospel,[2] which could be a version of the common Old Testament phrase God of Israel, but with Israel replaced with heaven to show the wider application of the new message. Schweizer notes that the light is intended to shine towards people in general, also emphasizing the universal mission.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b France, R. T. (1985). The Gospel According to Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary. Leicester: Inter-Varsity. ISBN 0-85111-870-4.
  2. ^ a b c Hill, David (1981). The Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-1886-2.
  3. ^ a b c Schweizer, Eduard (1975). The Good News According to Matthew. trans. David E. Green. Atlanta: John Knox Press. ISBN 0-8042-0251-6.
  4. ^ Howard Clarke The Gospel of Matthew and its Readers: A Historical Introduction to the First Gospel. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.
  5. ^ Jeffrey, David Lyle (ed.) (1992). "Light under a bushel.". A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature. Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-3634-8.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)

Preceded by
Matthew 5:14
Gospel of Matthew
Chapter 5
Succeeded by
Matthew 5:17